The Effortless Action of Floating – Wu Wei
Wu Wei is a philosophy that stems from Taoism. Taoism in Chinese means ‘The Way’, to live with the Tao means to live in harmony with the universal energy/nature that pervades all things. Wu Wei is the explanation of how we can learn to follow The Way and align ourselves with the Tao once again. It was the great work of the late Alan Watts that led to my interest in Taoism, Alan has done many a great lecture on this topic. Watts described Wu Wei as the Principle of Not Forcing.
‘You Have to Let go and Let it Happen’ – Alan Watts
Wu Wei is a Chinese concept that is best translated as ‘Effortless Action’. Wu Wei could also be described as the art of effortless living. It is an astonishing concept that life can improve the less you apply effort or try and force things to happen the way you want them too. But this is the very basis that Taoism rests upon. To live effortlessly is seen as acting powerfully by the Taoist. This is quite the opposite of what we have been led to believe in Western philosophy. In the west, working harder than the rest and applying brute force to make life happen is seen as the key to leading a successful life. The Taoist view is the direct opposite of this.
Wu Wei tries to keep things simple for us. Wu Wei is the art of letting go! It is the art of going with the flow and not against the flow. Effortless action, I must add, does not mean we become lazy, demotivated and simply do nothing. Effortless action means that we take intuitive and inspired heart led actions. Acting effortlessly also pushes us to simply trust that life will work out the way we want it too.
An Effortless Journey Through Life
‘Faith. . . is Letting go and Trusting Oneself to the Unknown’ – Alan Watts
Now, time for a simple analogy. Life can be compared to a journey. A journey along a river is a suitable analogy for this. The energy (Tao) that pervades the universe is represented by the water itself. Wu Wei states that we can get in the water and swim, sink or merely float. Wu Wei is the pathway of simply lying back and floating on the water itself. To Swim is to force and to try and control, to Sink is to force and lose all control and to Float is to Trust and simply let go of all Force and control.
When we float, we go with the flow and simply know that the water will take us to our required destination. This is a pathway of surrender, while knowing that your heart and intuition (The Water) has your back. The water quite literally has your back when you choose to float and not swim. We must not fight against the flow of the river or strive to fight with the flow of the river or even strive to get ahead of the flow of the river. Simply put, we patiently allow the river to carry us as we float to our required destination.
The Great Paradox of Effortless Living
It is safe to say that Eastern Taoist idea of Wu Wei is is one the greatest paradoxes ever taught as a philosophy. Wu Wei is a complete rebellion against Western notions that life is a battleground where only the fittest survive. It is also a complete rebellion against the notion that life is about forcing things to happen via effort and destroying your rivals to get ahead of the pack. For too long, we have believed that life is a fight for survival. For too long we have believed that life is a journey full of endless suffering. Wu Wei urges us to throw away these ignorant notions. Wu Wei urges us to simply trust and allow life to lead us to where we need to get too.
This concept is not one which I can provide any scientific evidence of, it can only be known when it is experienced. Our only proof of this concept is if we observe Nature itself. Nature itself is pretty energetically balanced between the Ying, the Yang and the good, the bad. We must naturally align ourselves with the Tao again, which is the flow of life. We practice this alignment with nature/energy (the tao) by simply allowing ourselves to float and trust that the water flow (our intuition) will lead and guide us. You can not become balanced and aligned by intellectually fighting against the water flow or doubting the direction of the water flow. To float, we have to show faith. If we don’t show faith in the water to carry us and have our back, we will simply sink!
Balance, Harmony and Success Via Effortless Living
We become balanced by allowing life itself, the tao, energy to flow through us! The water of the river carries our bodyweight for us, we no longer shoulder our burdens in this world. The water holding us up, is carrying our burdens from this point onwards. This relieves us of all of our troublesome worries and ailments, when we attain this level of trust. By doing this, we also restore our mental and bodily health and balance as a side effect.
Dropping Force, Control, Attachment
Think of all the times that life effortlessly worked out for you. You will notice that it was mostly when you gave up all control of the goal you wished to achieve. Now, think of all the times disasters occurred in your life. Notice that it was usually when you were desperate to control the outcomes of the goal you had? If you have experienced any of these dark events in your life, they are all a result of trying to force and control life and not going with the flow or listening to the small voice within. When we simply let go of resistance and attachment, things seem to naturally work out for us ,without us even trying!
This is all the proof you need, to recognise of how this rather unusual method works. To cling or to attach ourselves to outcomes going the way we want them too, is to create resistance. And Resistance stems from Force and Control. The more we relinquish force and control and choose to be effortless in our actions, the more we become non resistant and life begins to flow again. The more we resist, the more we block our good from occurring and the less we resist, the more we allow our good to occur. Non resistance is letting go and allowing your life to move in the most positive good willed direction. Our heart/ intuition will always take us in the most positive direction, we simply need to become more trusting that our intuition will do the hard work for us.
Power From via Not Using Force
Power from giving up control and letting go? I know, a shocking paradox! But a true one that most people rarely grasp. We become powerful via not striving to be powerful, we gain control via not trying to gain control and we gain force via not trying to be forceful. There are paradoxes all over the place here, too many to mention.
The Path of Flow is the Path of the Heart
When we take this path of surrender and letting go, we follow our heart and not our mind/head. I have spoken many times recently about being ruled by our hearts and not our minds/heads. Wu Wei for all of its clever language about floating on water, is the exact same notion as being guided by the heart and intuition. We achieve our life goals via simply trusting our inner voice and letting go. We know what we want, our hearts feeds us our desires. Our intentions are set in a certain and clear direction, but we must not try and force or control that direction! We must trust that life, will take us in that direction in the most natural possible way. We trust that life/god will supply for us. You don’t try to manage the process, you allow the process to happen of its own accord.
This is why I find Wu Wei such a wonderfully powerful philosophy. Wu Wei is the pathway of trusting in ourselves again and following the heart. When we choose this pathway, we have the power to naturally glide through life. We just need to let go and trust that our lives will work out for the best and simply let go of all mental force. We still take action and we still do things, this is not an excuse for demotivation or laziness. The only difference is that we now act from the heart, without the need to mentally force or control things. We allow life to flow, we allow our best outcomes to occur by not forcing outcomes!
The River and Pathway of Intuition
This is a pathway of inspired action and following our inner voice and guidance. Once we trust in our hearts and listen to our intuition again, life will flow and move effortlessly. We become powerful by being powerless, we become noticed by not trying to be noticed. We are loved whilst not trying to be loved, we achieve our desires whilst not striving to achieve our desires.
Life is not a designed timeline of suffering and punishment as some would have you believe. It is only our fearful and dark thoughts that create these outcomes for us. Force and controlling tendencies generally stem from fearful and dark thoughts. Once, we allow ourselves to be guided by our hearts again and go with the flow of the river again. We are back on the winning team again.
Living Intuitively and Not Intellectually
Most of our negative thinking stems from our need to question our intuition and a need to doubt our inner voice and feelings. When we follow and listen to our heart, we find our negative thinking naturally dissolves and our thinking naturally becomes positive and aligned. We then begin to expect only the best to occur. This is because we are choosing to trust in ourselves again, we are connecting with our True self again. Our True Self and we recognise that the true self within us always knows best. Never forget this!
Who would have thought that we could build our dream lives via minimal effort? We can when we follow our intuition and heart and do not allow forceful and negative thinking to dominate our everyday activity. Silence the mental chatter and allow your heart to lead the way again. Life is full of strange paradoxes that can never be scientifically understood or explained and this is one of the greatest paradoxes of them all. Let go of the mental need for control today and start experiencing the joys of intuitive effortless living again. Simply put, live life in the Effortless action Lane.
I will finish today with a Steve Jobs quote taken from my previous post as I feel it is a very apt note to leave you on –